Report: Mavericks throw hat in Melo sweepstakes — but only as a rental

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Now we have some confirmation on an early post on this site that came with a little bit of speculation — it is indeed the Dallas Mavericks that is the contending team that has thrown it’s hat into the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes.

However they only want him as a “rental,” according to Ken Berger of CBSSports, who broke the story. Meaning they don’t want to offer him a big contract extension, they just want him for these upcoming playoffs.

Part of Dallas’ strategy, according to sources, is to shift the Anthony discussions to what Cuban recently called the “rent-a-player” phase, which would drive down the price and encourage other teams to present offers without assurances that Anthony would stay put for five years — the two he has remaining (including the early-termination option for 2011-12) plus the extension.

Such potential suitors, including the Mavs, do not have enough of what Denver is looking for to compete with New Jersey’s best offer. But if Dallas is successful in shifting Denver’s focus to “rental” deals, the Nets would then have to decide how much they are willing to give up to acquire a franchise cornerstone for their move to Brooklyn — even if Anthony could leave them in the dust as a free agent before the team even got there.

Everything still starts and ends with the New Jersey situation. No, not The Situation. We mean the Anthony/Nets situation — the Nets have by far the best offer with Derrick Favors, Troy Murphy and his expiring contract, plus a boatload of picks. However, they Nets are only interested if Anthony will sign an extension to stay with the team for five years and be there for the 2012 opening of the franchise’s new building in Brooklyn.

So far, Anthony has been hesitant to agree to an extension (reports differ on whether he is open to an extension there, but right now his people seem to be saying no). Bottom line is Anthony does not want to be the lone star on a team playing in Newark for another season, he only wants to go if other stars come. Maybe Chauncey Billups and Al Harrington from Denver. The Nets are working on that, but it is a tall order.

Berger also reports that the Rockets are trying to get in on the fun.

What the rent-a-player push does is give the Nuggets another option. Those offers from the Mavericks and others may not be as good as the Nets’ offer, but if the Nets pull out because Anthony will not sign an extension the Nuggets have a Plan B. Those options may be better than Anthony’s preferred destination of the Knicks.

Also, the thought of being traded and not getting his three-year, $64 million extension might motivate Anthony to accept going to the Nets. If he waits to be a free agent and signs wherever under a new CBA, Anthony could be out millions or even tens of millions.

Money often talks. And that’s one thing Cuban has and knows how to use.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”